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Most New Brunswick youth not getting enough sleep, screen time partly to blame

Last Updated Dec 6, 2016 at 3:00 pm MST

MONCTON, N.B. – More than half of young people aren’t getting enough sleep in New Brunswick, according to the findings of a new report that will resonate with parents across the country.

The New Brunswick Health Council report said more than 60 per cent of youth and children are sleeping less than eight hours per night — the recommended minimum, although national guidelines suggest children and youth should get even more.

Pre-bedtime screen time is partly to blame, it says.

Stephane Robichaud, CEO of the New Brunswick Health Council, said 77 per cent of kids in grades six to 12 look at computer, television and phone screens for more than two hours per day.

He said parents should seek to develop new habits for their children — such as a sport or hobby — to peel their eyes away from screens.

“As a parent, I know this isn’t an easy battle, but it’s for the good of our kids,” said Robichaud. “There’s obviously links there with the obesity numbers that we’re seeing because kids just aren’t as active as they used to be.”

The findings on screen time are not unique to New Brunswick, said Robichaud.

“The challenge with youth sedentary behaviours is something that we’re likely facing as parents across the country,” said Robichaud. “You’re seeing very similar habits within youth across the country.”

The report said the recreational use of devices with screens before bedtime has been shown to delay sleep.

Children aged five to 13 should have between nine and 11 hours of sleep, while youth aged 14 to 17 should sleep eight to 10 hours per night, the report states.

The report, which looked at data over five years, said not getting enough sleep can lead to poor mental health — including anxiety, depression and mood disorders — and can cause kids to become less alert, increasing the risk of injury.

It said youth who get less sleep have difficulty managing stress, which can lead to tobacco use or other substance use. It also said inadequate sleep can lead to hormonal changes, including weight gain, diabetes and hypertension.

“Sleep boosts the energy of children and youth and helps them be active and healthy,” the report said. “Inadequate sleep has been highlighted as an area for improvement, especially as it relates to healthy weights, mental health, risk of injuries and smoking.”

The report indicates a slight improvement over five years in the council’s four priority areas, which include: Improving mental health, achieving healthy weights, preventing injuries and reducing tobacco use.

— By Aly Thomson in Halifax